Tagged: history

Hey Weekend Marchers! I Hereby Challenge Your Character…

…by asking you to have the courage to be wrong. Wrong about what? Wrong about my beliefs. I challenge you to state what I believe to be the issue. That is, state what someone who does not think that your foolish-if-fashionable footsteps are moving forward anything or anyone but your own body believes to be the issue.

Think you have the character to do this? I don’t think you do.

I think you’re chicken, the whole lot of you.

But I’m giving you the opportunity to prove me wrong. What have you got to lose? Certainly not any more tear-stained poster-board. So give it a shot and comment below. I dare ya. (Or write your own post and give me the link.)

****

I spent most of yesterday in an abundantly enjoyable conversation with one of your hopeful souls (his name is also Pete), and yet at the end, he still could only express confusion at what I believe to be the issue. (See the entire conversation here.)

I ably described the issue raised by school shootings as I see it, and I ably described the issue raised by school shootings as he saw it. By the end, he confirmed that I “sort of” saw his side. But he never demonstrated that he understood mine–nor did he really indicate that he cared to. Trouble is, I knew that I knew his side before the whole conversation started. (I knew ’cause I have been listening to you!)

But it gets worse. He is not the only one of you stomping spirits who do not seem to be able to simply state what I (and my pals) believe to be the issue.

Remember, all I want is to be assured that you possess some level of discernment. Here’s your chance to prove to me that you understand where we disagree. For assistance, links to recent posts which vary in length, breadth, and depth and whose contents contain writing which my pals generally agree I am clearly making a case in opposition to you are here, here, here, here, and here.

Clues (or beliefs which I do not hold): I do not believe the issue to be gun violence. I do not believe the issue to be bump stocks or AR-15s. I do not believe the issue to be the interpretation of the meaning of the second amendment or any of its words. I do not believe the issue will be solved by more guns. I do not believe the issue will be solved by less guns. And unlike you I do not believe the issue will be solved by stricter gun laws.

But I do believe the school shootings raise an important issue.

Can you state, in your own words, what I believe to be the issue that they raise? Remember! If you bravely accept my challenge to defend your character, YOU MAY BE WRONG–about me. Scary.

Advertisements

Response to Comment from Friend about the March

(You’ll have to read this morning’s post to catch up. Apologies, but you can do it!)

My friend responded, “Your analysis or logic and certainly the conclusion escapes me. But, then again, in 1999 my two children were attending high school in Littleton, Colorado. Our home was less than fives miles from Columbine. The massacre that took place on April 20th, 1999 at Columbine High School cannot and will not be subject to the cavalier dismissal of your post. The millions of synchronous marchers, worldwide on March 24th are the empirical proof. That is a stronger, better conclusion… one guided by a light of hope… that last Saturday’s “March for our Lives” in Denver, is part of a larger, grander plan; one that this mortal can only guess at.”

My pastor is the man whom, nearly weekly, publicly declares the above conclusion in his prayers (assuming you’re referencing the LORD/battle/army sentence). As a veteran with first-hand battle and army (Air Force) experience, I cringed for the first two years of hearing the man say it. But for some reason I stuck around and gave him the benefit of the doubt. This past year of hearing it brought the payoff (and essentially re-reading the entire Bible). Similar to Aquinas’ thoughts on the law (i.e. counterfeit law), there is only one way that the conclusion makes sense and it involves re-orienting your understanding of reality. No small thing–and only possible with Christ.

I try to keep posts around 300 words, and so I cut out about half of what I initially wrote and hoped the meaning would still be clear. I am responding here because it seems to me that you may not feel confident in stating my point of view accurately, which I humbly submit is near the status quo’s point of view. Do you think you understand our point of view?

In short, assuming we agree that I have faithfully re-stated the claims made last weekend, I think the situation as more similar to calling for the end of cruel and unusual punishment or the end of certain forms of the death penalty than it is similar the Civil Rights movement wherein the African-Americans simply saw no reason why they weren’t allowed to vote. The call today is to restrict rights, not promote them. This is a very unique cry in human history in my reading of human history (unique in one sense, in another sense, it is the most common cry).

I’m not sure how my use of Columbine was seen to fit into the cavalier analogy of the big picture. I fully mean that I can see a future where historians in the future may find themselves describing all these “lone wolf” type mass shootings as early guerrilla warfare type acts of war which led to…

Regarding empirical proof, either more than seven billion four hundred million people worldwide, or more than three hundred twenty million in the United States did not get up from their couch. Empirically, in my mind, single-digit millions are not enough anymore.

On the whole, I still think (but might be wrong) that my analogy is an accurate assessment of the marchers’ claims, if a bit cavalier, in that it admits that the marchers’ are not calling to stop playing the game (which would be calling for an end to violence or the like, Beatles style). My point in getting to the root of the claim is to show that simply desiring things go in their proper place is not something that can be legislated. Instead, that desire is merely the call for the law to come into existence.

But it is possible that I do not understand what the marchers really want.

Pete

Review of Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence (Part of The Great Ideas Program [Itself a guided reading of The Great Books of the Western World]) by Mortimer J. Adler and Peter Wolff

“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.” – David Hogg, Survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas schooting

Thank you, young man. I want to thank you for two reasons. First, thank you for delighting me. Second, thank you for saving me time.

Regarding delight: ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I love analogies. (Maybe you will understand me better if I write, “I ♥ analogies.” #celebrateilliteracy #icantreedorrite.) I love them because they somehow make communication crystal clear.

Regarding time: because you used an analogy, I do not have to ask clarifying questions to get at the heart of what you want to say. In other words, you have made my duty simpler. So, again, thank you for saving me time.

The analogy you provided is perfectly coherent, and undeniably clear. But do not think for a moment that through it you have demonstrated that you know up from down. I’ll grant that you are an expert at pressing “send”. Against my instincts, I’ll even grant that you are an expert at using a democracy. I will not, however, grant that you can see the truth.

The truth is that democracy is not something that is used, it is something that is built. More clearly, democracy is not the hammer, it is the house.

****

Philosophy of Law and JurisprudenceThe preface to Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence includes two true accounts of people stranded at sea after shipwrecks. Inevitably decisions must be made as to who should get to live at least a little bit longer. And, yes, cannibalism is sometimes the best option.

Against this backdrop, the authors present Western Civilization’s history of thought about the “law”. The book isn’t very long at all. Though, I will admit that to the likes of David Hogg and friends, compared to 140 characters, the work may seem unending. To old-ass parents, however, the ability to coherently, if not comprehensively, paint the broad-strokes of the past 2500 years’ discussion of Western thought as related to the law seems a pretty incomparable feat.

Beginning with Aeschylus, we are presented with the law as found in the infamous Greek tragedies as captured in fictions surrounding the Trojan War. In short, revenge is shown for what it is–unending. The only solution to the eternal problem is given in the institution of the court, the law.

Plato, in turn, takes the law and states that it has the purpose of promoting virtue, through persuasion and coercion.

Aristotle answers the new question which arises from Plato’s idea, which is, “What is this thing that men should be persuaded and coerced to be?” In short, after delineating natural law (killing is bad) from man-made law (speeding is bad), Aristotle offers that the man-made law must be for the common good and be properly made.

The Old and New Testaments are treated next, under the question, “Why is there any need for divine law?”

We next return to Aristotle and Plutarch, to include Solon, and see outlined the three functions of the law. The law must be made, enforced, and applied. Here we see the makings of our own three branches of government, the legislative, executive, and judicial.

Aquinas seems to be one of the first to notice that up until his time none of his predecessors really even didactically defined the term in question, that being, the law.

  • Plato, for example gets close but misses when he writes, “…there is one among these cords which every man ought to grasp and never let go, but to pull with it against all the rest; and this is the sacred and golden cord of reason, called by us the common law of the State.”
  • Aristotle, for his part, says, “law has compulsive power, while it is at the same time a rule proceeding from a sort of practical wisdom and reason.”
  • The emperor Justinian wrote, “Whatsoever pleases the sovereign has the force of the law.”

Finally, we read Aquinas’ definition, being, “[law] is nothing other than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”

Aquinas is also the author from which we find the complicated but enlightening idea that an unjust law is an impossibility, instead it is merely a counterfeit law.

Hobbes is the man responsible for creating the notion that the commonwealth, the group, should be thought of as a new being–which he calls the Leviathan. In his system, there are essentially three commands/points. First, right to life is the only inalienable right. Second, to achieve life, one must give up all rights and liberties (with the assumption that all others follow suit) and third, men must perform the covenants that they make. The tricky part of Hobbes is that there is no law without the Leviathan. And the Leviathan cannot be against itself. Put another way, for Hobbes it is irrelevant that I think a law unreasonable.

Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice receives the next chapter’s attention because of the covenant involving one character’s willingness to underwrite his debt with “a pound of flesh.” In other words, Shakespeare brings out that mindless obedience to covenants may not be best.

Montesquieu takes up the law with the phrase, “the Spirit of Laws,” as he promotes the notion Shakespeare observed, that is that there does not seem to be one hard and fast law. Specifically he advocates that the particular and distinct circumstances–especially the climate wherein the particular culture (or Leviathan if you will) exists–must be taken into account as the law is created, enforced, and applied.

Rousseau adds to the discussion by providing the sound reasoning that the law sets men free. Rousseau is also one of the first to argue that the law, as it sets us free, is primarily concerned with protection of property as property is the freedom most easily taken away.

Kant, while approaching the law from the perspective opposite Montesquieu (science), picks up the property notion and explains that to even say that we have a right to property requires a second person. And therein he defends the importance of property ownership as a measure of the law.

Next we view the American Constitution through the eyes of its inadequate predecessor, the Articles of Confederation. This will always be a worthy exercise.

Hegel then exposes the significance of understanding there is most assuredly a difference between the history of laws and the philosophy of law. He wrote, “A particular law may be shown to be wholly grounded in and consistent with the circumstances and existing legally established institutions, and yet it may be wrong and irrational in its essential character.” He is also responsible for spreading the notion that the philosophical task (in this case, answering either, “What is the law?” or “What is right?”) has not begun until the ideas are actualized.

Finally, the book ends with discussion of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. This is due to the final courtroom melodrama which is about as morally difficult as anything yet written and demonstrates that the question, “What is the law?” has not yet been conclusively answered.

Despite our current predicament, this little history lesson may be enough to demonstrate that the American system was very well thought out–not by grieving, angry teenagers but by parents who could tell the difference between hammer and house.

****

But you already knew that, Mr. Hogg, didn’t you?

Vengeance is Mine – God; Christianity = Pacifism

So I just read that book that I was so excited to read for school–War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. Good stuff.

I partook in a “war”. I can’t say I was a Christian during it, but I grew up believing I was a Christian and today my beliefs necessitate that I label myself the same–Christian. So you’re curious to know my conclusion after reading a few essays on whether Christianity condones war? Obviously the matter is complicated, but my head is clear. If I had the time to order a personalized bumper sticker, this is what I’d make it say:

“Vengeance is mine” – God.

Christianity = Pacifism.

 

Skateland

“I just don’t want to do the sock hop.  I want to skate,” the boy declared.

The minivan door opened wide.  Rushing to the plain brown building simply labeled “Skateland”, the children  realized their hurry was wasted as they needed their mom’s money to make it past the gatekeeper.

Blue and red slushy mix marked the snack bar as a the smell of un-buttered popcorn and warm feet invaded their nostrils.  Looking to see if pizza was an option, he nearly ran into a girl struggling to roll on the carpet.

“Yes!  They have it.”

Pretending not to notice it, he was glad the couple’s skate was happening now.  That meant he had time to focus on getting the right fit, and also time enough to check out the newest ABEC bearings for sale.

As I’ll Make Love to You faded into Thriller, his body drifted towards the rink.  Almost falling, he cursed the carpet.  Almost falling, he cursed the silky floor.  Almost falling, he cursed his skates.

First stop, the DJ.

“What’s up kid?”

“Um.  Could you play Hanging Tough, by New Kids on the Block?”

“We just played it a little bit ago.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll see what I can do, though.  Anything else?”

“Um.  Ice Ice Baby, by Vanilla Ice?”

“Just played that too.”

“Okay.  Never mind.”

Undeterred, he zoomed along the far wall, scanning the rink for his friends.  A tap on the right shoulder warned him they were passing on his left.  Catching up, he hoped that his speed and skill impressed any interested girls as the still air became a pleasant breeze.

Being told “five more minutes!” earlier than desired, he skated out his remaining time just fast enough to not get yelled at by the dude in the zebra stripes.  Returning to the benches, he was amazed–just like every visit–how light his tennis shoes were.

“Feel’s like I’m still skating, only lighter,” he professed to the others.

As the they walked out the door, the boys chattered excitedly that they just saw the cutest girl of the day walking in.

“Man!  That always happens.”

To Humanity or Not To Humanity

Those of you who left the world of academia long ago might be unaware that there is a debate raging about the humanities.  Are college students interested in majoring in the humanities?  Are they not?  Would they like to, but their practical mind says, “Don’t be a fool.  There are no jobs for humanities majors.”

My question is why is this debate even happening?  I suspect that students who major in vocational type degrees get their long-sought-after jobs and live happily ever after.  Just like students who major in the humanities or liberal arts degrees don’t get jobs related to their degree and live happily ever after.

There is some notion that accompanies attending college which goes something like, “If only we all do this right, we can achieve heaven on earth.”  Is that what we (humans) really think?

I say do what you want.  I wanted to get good grades and learn about why people behave they way they do.  So I majored in sociology.  Some people want to become very rich, so they major in fields that lend themselves to making money.  Other people want to paint, so they major in art.  I don’t see why this is a discussion.  Am I missing something?

I want to be the best that I can be.  Isn’t that enough?  Why do I have to conform to your utopia?  How about this:  You just do your best rather than worry about forecasting what will happen if nobody studies English or History anymore.  And I’ll do the same.  And then we’ll see what happens.

The Father of Second Base?

For all the information, misinformation, and controversy surrounding the origin of the game of baseball, one piece of trivia is rarely mentioned.  Whether Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright should be credited as the father of America’s pastime, it seems to me that the more pressing question–the question that nobody is asking–is, “Where would the game of baseball be without second base?”

What you have to understand is baseball began as a competition, similar to cricket, which involved balls and bats and home plate and base.  Initially, there were not four bases, mind you, just one.  The player would hit the ball and run back and forth between two points in space–home plate and base.  What most people don’t bother wondering about is how home plate and this single base (just called ‘base’ as there wasn’t, at that time, another base which necessitated the distinctions “first” and “second”) multiplied into the modern baseball diamond comprised of home plate, first base, second base and third base.

As you are no doubt realizing, the addition of a second base was no trivial matter.  Without adding a second base, there would have never been a reason to add a third base, and without third base, there is no baseball diamond.  So, we must ask how second base came to be.  More to the point, we should want to know who to credit for the addition of a second base.  As fate would have it, it was none other than than “father of American music” himself–Stephen Foster.

Having recently penned such classics as “Oh, Susanna” and “Camptown Races”, Foster was a veritable celebrity.  He was the man of the hour in the mid-1800s.  And he happened to be a bit of a sports nut.  No one knows for certain how it happened, but after some light reflection it should be no surprise to anyone that Foster, who became known for writing songs with special emphasis on the refrain, was the man who suggested adding another base to the playing field.  After all, it was the addition of second base that gave baseball what some might call musicality.

Think about it.  A game where men simply run back and forth between two designated spots offers no real distinguishing excitement, no real flow.  But, as we all know and love, if a player makes it to second base on the diamond of today, he is in “scoring” position.  Reaching scoring position, then, is similar to the unique characteristic of Foster’s own music.  That being, the emphasis on the refrain.  As a verse of Foster’s music concludes, everyone knows the refrain is coming, and still everyone can’t wait for it to happen.  Regardless the amount of listeners singing the verses, everyone in earshot contributes their own voice to “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me!”  Is it not the same when the runner reaches second base?  Maybe the inning is dragging on, maybe it seems all hope is lost, maybe you are lost in thought trying to remember when they stop serving beer–it doesn’t matter.  The minute the runner makes it to second, he might score a run.  And if he does, his crossing home plate triggers another batter and extends the offensive strike; in other words, it acts as a refrain.  Is there anyone who would attempt to argue that there is any quantifiable difference between crowds cheering upon their team scoring a run and crowds singing “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me.  Well I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee”?

I don’t know why I feel its important to bring this to your attention.  Not forgetting the little man is just in my nature.  Blame my dad.  The point is, next time you’re feeling a profound love of the game, toss some of it to Stephen Foster; for who knows where America’s pastime would be if it wasn’t for the “father of American music.”

****

Happy Birthday Dad.  Thanks for the memories.

How Long Until We Learn? 12 Years? 20 Years? Never?

“Does everyone understand?” the professor asked.  She just finished explaining a nuance regarding citations in academic writing.  “Once more then, common knowledge doesn’t need to be cited, but other than that, it’s best to cite the source of your material.  For example, that Pearl Harbor was attacked on December…9th..?”  Snickers from the class.  “…was it the 9th?” she begged for help.

“7th,” he spoke up.  “December 7th.”

“That’s right, thank you.  Now you all know that I don’t ‘do’ dates very well,” she joked.

“And that you don’t love your country,” he remarked half-joking, but seeking a status increase in his classmate’s eyes as well.

“Haha.  Yes, apparently that too,” she laughed, genuinely appreciating the comment.

His helmet on and secure, he slowly backed the motorcycle out of its parking spot as he prepared to head home from class.  Recognizing that a motorcyclist’s every movement is exposed, he concentrated on making his scan for obstacles look as cool as possible.

Finally, he was on the road.  Warm air, no seat belt; he was one with the machine.  “This will never get old,” he thought to himself.  Seeing brake lights in front of him he looked up to see yellow become red.  Downshifting, he slowed to a stop.  The car in front of him had a sticker that caught his attention.  It simply read, “9-11-01.”  He couldn’t place the date.  Adam and Eve themselves couldn’t describe the shame he felt as he realized his mistake.  How many times did it have to happen until he learned that pride comes before the fall?  Less than 10 minutes after enjoying a good laugh at the professors expense for not remembering the date Pearl Harbor was attacked, he didn’t recognize a sticker whose purpose was to help us never forget the events of September 11, 2001.

Frustrated he rode the rest of the way home analyzing how this could have happened.  Suddenly, an interesting thought: “Wow.  It has been 12 years.  I wonder how everyone felt in 1953 about Pearl Harbor, compared to how we feel now about 9/11.  I always hear about how great the 50s were…  Will people in 2073 look back and romanticize this decade too?”  It seemed unlikely.

**

Insecurity.  Individuals feel it, nations feel it.  In either case, it is a problem that should be stomped out as ferociously as possible.  The attack on 9/11 spoke to life’s uncertainty.  How long are we going to pretend that this was new information?  No living thing is free from a risk of dying.  Why are we still insecure?

Given the occasion to ‘get the jump’ on the yearly discussion, I don’t mind taking the first stab.  We’re still insecure because we don’t understand where security comes from.

Here’s the situation as I see it:  After taking until the mid-1980s to repress Vietnam’s memory, we built a military of overwhelming strength.  The end of the 80s saw the end of The Cold War.  Less than a few years later, we literally obliterated Iraq’s military during Gulf War One.  (Our pilots were shooting down Iraqi pilots before they could retract their landing gear on takeoff.)  This victory made it impossible to resist feeling invulnerable.

The trouble, however, was that the “we” that became invulnerable included the greatest generation.  By 9/11, “we” no longer included the greatest generation or their experience-based (vs secondhand) knowledge and wisdom.  What did they know that would have helped us?  What might we have learned from existing with them, rather than reading about them?  What information do we need to internalize so we can rid ourselves of the wasting disease called insecurity?

Security comes from within.

It won’t come from Obama.  It wouldn’t have come from Romney.  It won’t come from Clinton or Christie.

Whether Hippocrates ever intended his paraphrased oath to be applied by everyone is inconsequential.  “Do no knowing harm.”  That goes for everyone.  All the time.  Whether at work or at play.  In your personal life, in your professional life.

Is life complicated?  Yes.  Has our government acted honorably all the time?  No.  Do people capitalize on every opportunity to take advantage of each other?  Yes.  These questions and answers do not paint a pretty picture.  So what.  Not one of them has any bearing on the decision you are about to make right now.

The only way to overcome this problem is to stop doing knowing harm.  Today.  No matter who is telling you, “It’s okay.”  Whatever consequence you fear will happen if you disobey, you must risk it.  Past mistakes are irrelevant.  The rest of the planet is longing for Americans to wisely use the power we hold.  You know what I’m talking about.  You can’t feign ignorance any longer.

I need your help.  The only way to get there is together.

Why Philosophy? The Answer is Mathematical.

The sound of the car door closing should have woken them.  In any case, he was too excited to care.  Up the stairs he went.  Listening first for what he hoped to never hear, he finally knocked on their door.

“What?” his mother asked.

“I’m home.”  he replied opening the door.

“Good…” she acknowledged.

“‘THE MATRIX’ IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!” he burst.

“That’s great.  Tell me about it in the morning.”

“No, you don’t understand, I have to go see it again.  You have to see it.  Dad, what are you doing tomorrow night?  I mean, I could feel my jeans shaking from the bass it was so loud.”

That was me.  April 1999.

In the fall of 1999 I learned that the ancient Greek’s had mused that we could all really just be brains in jars being stimulated to believe life as we know it is happening.  Wow.  I cannot tell you how powerful that one fact was.  That begged the question, “What else did people thousands of years ago think about that is being presented as new today?”

Around the same time, this knowledge became slightly depressing.  If “The Matrix” was actually thousands of years old, what hope did we have for ever thinking something new?

A decade later, I stumbled upon Heidegger.  Intense.  Taken together, Heidegger and a plagiarized Matrix have revealed how wrong the famous “to remain ignorant of history is to remain forever a child” saying is.

Love history, study history, worship history; just don’t believe that you’re somehow better for it.  More and more it is becoming clear to me that “life” is perfectly synonymous with “now.”  Simply acknowledging this gives me all the hope I need.  Anxiety disappears.

For the doubtful reader, the best argument I can muster is the following personal story.

I attended college from 1999-2003.  I am back in college for kicks right now.  If you’ll allow my other writings to qualify me to make an observation, it seems US universities are really only interested in one thing: “How to Prevent the Holocaust.”  The Stanford Prison Experiment.  The Milgram Experiment.  Professors and students alike stand in awe of their revelations.  Somehow they miss the elephant in the room.  They miss that humans are totally capable of taking part in another holocaust.  This direct attempt to prevent the holocaust will not work.  To accomplish the goal, universities would be better served if they backed up a step and challenged students to accept responsibility for the present.  As I’ve written before, this idea of building a [fill in the blank] future is fundamentally flawed.

The only way I see to prevent another holocaust is to live for right now.  I’m not talking about “immediate gratification.”  I’m talking about an idea I first heard from Peter Drucker.  In his book “Management,” he discusses that the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t apply only to the medical field.  In his book, he makes the case that managers in any business have to live by it as well.  I’d go a step further and say everyone should use it as a guide.  Drucker paraphrases the oath down to, “Do no knowing harm.”  Implied is you can’t “do” the future.  You can only “do” the present.

By way of example, while deployed I hung on my wall some of the Samurai’s Bushido-type sayings.  One was, “Courage is living when it is right to live, and dying when it is right to die.”  I can tell you I have put a lot of though into it, and if the situation presents the “my life or me taking another’s life” dichotomy, I’m choosing the bullet.  The German people chose poorly.  They seem to have thought, “Even though this is wrong, if I do it now, at least I’ll make it to the future.”  Wrong.  No way am I making the same choice.  Only someone avoiding “the now” could murder on command.  Personal story turned rant over.

To recap, (“The Matrix” + Ancient Greek Philosophy + Martin Heidegger – Cicero + (Two x College) + Peter Drucker + Bushido) x Me^Infinity = Philosophy or interpreting existence is fascinating to me.   What’s your story?